Anyone who has shared a life with a dog cannot deny that they effect us. Douggie Barker is a diabetic who also suffers from hypothyroidism and the loss of sight in one eye. Working flea markets with his dog Mumps has provided Barker a therapeutic outlet that diverts his attention from a variety of medical issues. Before discovering flea markets, Barker’s multiple medical troubles left him depressed.
“By stepping outside the box with these sales, I have learned to think differently about life,” Barker said. “I now see the funny side of it.”
His new book, Catch Mumps at the Boot Sale, is a piece of fiction but includes some of his experiences at flea markets with his dog.
We caught up with Barker to learn more about the wonderful dog that has given him so much.
Tell us about Mumps: age, where you got him, and how you came up with that unusual name!
DB: The character of Mumps is actually based on a Collie I once owned and an American Cocker Spaniel that belonged to my wife. In the story line I obtained him from a dog rescue center – he was a real fruit salad and his age was unknown. Eventually, the antics, faithfulness, intelligence and companionship of the two real dogs came together in Mumps. Slowly he became real and took on a life of his own. A number of years ago, my first wife was ill in bed with mumps. She didn’t like dogs very much so I decided to call my new found friend ‘Mumps’, probably out of gall more than anything else.
Does he have any quirky habits?
DB: Mumps’ main quirky habits are his extreme intelligence and his rather annoying ability to understand exactly what you’re saying or thinking. In fact, the follow-up book is being written by Mumps himself and tells the whole story from his point of view!
How has Mumps made a difference in your life in terms of your health?
DB: Fictional or not, such animals can be a powerful asset to your own personal well-being. They’re fun to have around! But the book does truthfully tell about the many medical issues I’ve had to deal with – including diabetes. Walking a dog is a good exercise and exercise is one of the main weapons that can help fight the disease.
What made you start taking him to rummage sales?
DB: Most of the chapters concern my past life. One of them tells the story of my ex-wife and her secret lover who used to abuse my dog. After being advised by a neighbor of their cruelty I decided to take Mumps with me to the rummage sales. The whole episode marked the end of the line for my marriage. Subsequently, Mumps stuck with me through a painful divorce and he became a real companion. He also turned out to be a very good guard dog!
How have these outings helped you deal with your medical issues?
DB: During my frequent outings to these sales, my faithful mutt always at my side, we regularly encountered people with far worse medical conditions than mine. My own brother-in-law is in the final stages of multiple sclerosis – a terrible, debilitating disease. And it’s not until you see the plight of others that you begin to thank God for your own lesser infirmities.
I go along with Josh Billings, the 19th century American humorist who once said, “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.”
What made you decide to write a book about your story?
DB: The main reason why I decided to write the book was because my current wife told me to! She is a hungry bookworm (not the small insect kind) and believes in it totally. Both of us try to see the funny side of life no matter how bad it gets. Some of the things that happen while we are doing rummage sales are incredibly funny, so she told me to write them all down and publish a book – so I did! And we called it ‘Catch Mumps at the Boot Sale’ – kinda cool don’t you think?
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